Ever since Super Mario World introduced us to a Mario with a cape, I’ve had a fascination for game mechanics that allow you to glide. Nothing has quite captured what Nintendo accomplished so long ago, but The King’s Bird took me right back to those SNES days of old. This is a speedrunning platformer based on gliding around the environment where a solid grasp of momentum and timing is the key to success.
While I don’t have any idea what the basis for the story is or its specific art direction, The King’s Birdis incredibly fun to control. This is a relatively simple platformer that sort of adapts what Super Meat Boy did years ago. You can wall jump, slide up walls, and sprint before jumping and gliding to your destination. The big change here is pinpoint precision isn’t as necessary as in Team Meat’s masochistic masterpiece.
The dev I spoke to at Graffiti Games’ booth even explained as much to me. A lot of people get put off by things like Super Meat Boy partially because of its reputation, but also because the game doesn’t look very inviting. It has a harsh aesthetic that, while beautiful in my eyes, can look imposing to those unfamiliar with Team Meat’s work. The King’s Bird isn’t trying to dumb down the challenge, just present it in a way that might entice more people who are afraid of scary buzzsaws and blood.
To that effect, the art style of King’s Bird is very reminiscent of Journey, especially with the flowing cloak your character has. Everything looks like a watercolor painting being animated and it definitely can be a sight to behold. The moment-to-moment gameplay is accompanied by a soothing soundtrack that eases you on from successive failures. The controls aren’t hard to grasp and the demo gradually ramped up the challenge by introducing a mechanic and iterating on it before moving to the next idea.
This is classic game design 101 and it helps make The King’s Bird as inviting as possible. Since this is a momentum based platformer, there aren’t any enemies to get in the way, so the only real obstacle is a plethora of spiked walls to collide with. Because you’re gliding and sliding everywhere, these walls require a keen awareness of the environment to dodge.
Along with sliding on the ground, your character can also temporarily cling to ceilings. This allows you to keep your momentum going over bottomless pits by running on the ceilings above. You’ll also need to mix some last second dives into glides and etc. It can get complicated and that is where the fun lies.
You can’t glide forever, though. As you hold yourself in the air, your cloak will eventually degrade and you’ll start to plummet. This is where hitting ceilings or walls come into play since your cloak will replenish itself upon touching any surface apart from a deadly one. This is where you’ll find that classic Mario cape action as you run across safe surfaces building momentum before taking flight.
The demo was very short and I’m not sure what else, exactly, is going to be in here. There were some collectibles in the preview build that did require a good grasp of the glide mechanic to reach. These pick-ups were pointless in the demo, but the dev told me they were looking to have some birds sprout out of them and follow you. There might be some mechanic of saving wildlife, but I’m mostly just presuming at this point.
I do know that a lot of the premise is built around getting speedrunners involved, so if the game does take off, I would expect to see it at AGDQ or any other speedrunning tournament. I could see people getting really into that element, too, because even I managed to take a few paths the dev didn’t think of.
Currently, The King’s Bird is scheduled to be launched on PC. Graffiti Games is working on getting certification for console ports, though nothing has been determined yet. It would be a shame to see this stick to PC, though, especially with how well it captures the feeling of Mario’s classic cape feather.